Ending America's Longest War
President Trump plans to draw down troops in Afghanistan to just 2,500 by January.
Last Friday, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller released a two-page letter noting President Donald Trump’s intention to end America’s longest war. “As we prepare for the future,” Miller wrote, “we remain committed to finishing the war that Al-Qaeda brought to our shores in 2001. This war isn’t over. We are on the verge of defeating Al-Qaeda and its associates, but we must avoid our past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish. Indeed, this fight has been long, our sacrifices have been enormous, and many are wear of war — I’m one of them — but this is the critical phase in which we transition our efforts from a leadership to a supporting role. We are not a people of perpetual war — it is the antithesis of everything for which we stand and for which our ancestors fought. All wars must end. Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”
Trump wants to make good on his commitment to end America’s “endless wars” in the Middle East. As a White House official stated this week, “[Trump] wants to bring the troops home. He wants to end the wars.” This may also explain why former Defense Secretary Mark Esper was suddenly fired, as he evidently was opposed to Trump’s timeline for withdrawing troops.
It’s clear that there are competing opinions within the Pentagon as to the appropriate path forward. That’s evidenced by the objection of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien’s plan to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by January and zero by May 2021. “I think that, you know, Robert O'Brien or anyone else can speculate as they see fit,” General Milley said. “I’m going to engage in the rigorous analysis of the situation based on the conditions and the plans that I am aware of and my conservations wit the president.”
O'Brien responded, “I wasn’t speculating then; I wasn’t speculating today. And so, when I’m speaking, I’m speaking for the president. And I think that’s what the Pentagon is moving out and doing.”
Furthermore, not all Republicans are on board with Trump’s plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, offered words of caution on Monday: “A rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm.” However, McConnell was quick to note, “President Trump deserves major credit for reducing American forces in Afghanistan to a sustainable level. That same successful approach should continue.”
Trump is no warmonger. His commitment to an America First agenda is why he wants our troops out of some theaters. Interestingly, one of the most poignant examples exposing the hypocritical nature of ardent polarization is the fact that Democrats and other leftists who have long decried America’s “industrial-war complex” are now objecting to Trump’s attempts to end the Afghan war because, well, “Orange Man Bad.” In fact, leftists have bent over backwards peddling ridiculous conspiracy theories to justify their objection. As The Federalist’s Sumantra Maitra wryly notes, “The moment a U.S. troop pullout was announced, there were thousands of people, mostly middle-aged liberals, arguing that this must surely be because President Trump is under final orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to ‘weaken’ the American hand in Afghanistan.”
The impressive diplomatic accomplishments Trump has brokered in the Middle East via the peace deals between Israel and Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Sudan are no small achievements. They have come about in large part because Trump was willing to think differently, to challenge Washington’s groupthink. Of course, there are valid concerns over not repeating Barack Obama’s blunder in Iraq, given that his early troop withdrawal allowed for the creation of ISIS. That said, Afghanistan is not Iraq, and while there’s no guarantee that the Taliban will not take control of the country after U.S. troops leave, at what point does that become a problem Afghans will need to resolve for themselves? So long as Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the U.S., then for all intents and purposes, isn’t the job done? One thing’s for sure: The vast majority of the American public is tired of this war and wants it over.